A Marquette Ski Junkie in Pure Michigan

Aaron Peterson, a contributing photographer for Michigan Travel Ideas, is always up for a challenge, especially if it involves the outdoors and equipment. Aaron shares one of his favorite ski hang outs, Marquette Mountain.

One of the things I love about living near Marquette is immediate access to outdoor opportunities. Marquette Mountain ski area sits within city limits, less than 10 minutes from downtown shopping such as the Masonic Square Mall on Washington Street. In fact, you can see the white ribbons of runs from there!

Marquette Mountain is on one of a string of rugged hills rimming the city and leading north into the Huron Mountain range. Its location near the shore of Lake Superior, and 600 feet of vertical rise, means that dense clouds of lake-effect snow dump around 200 inches of white stuff annually. Yep, that means we average 130 days of skiing, from Thanksgiving through April!

You’ll need more than one day to tackle the mountain, which offers something for everyone, with 25 runs and three terrain parks. Marquette Mountain is home to some talented freestyle skiers and snowboarders who take full advantage of the parks. It’s always a thrill to check out the new tricks being thrown down on Contour’s jumps and rails. Looking for something more intense? Try Chute with 35-  to 50-foot decks. Ridge caters to beginners.

When the snow is especially good and I’m feeling brave, I head for the backcountry and ski Renegade and Weasels Gulch. At the end of those runs, you cross a bridge over the fast-moving Carp River to catch chair three to the top.

Hint: You’ll want to get to the hill early to get good parking near the chalet. The lot fills up quickly, and parking in the overflow area means having to cross highway M-553 with an armload of equipment. The chalet is fairly small, so I dress for the hill ahead of time to avoid the crowds inside.

Aaron Peterson is a travel photographer based near Lake Superior on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His work has appeared in several publications, including Michigan Travel Ideas, Outside, National Geographic Adventure and Outdoor Life.

 

A Christmas Carol Moment in Pure Michigan

Photo courtesy of Felicia Fairchild

Jeanne Van Wieren shares her “Pure Michigan Moment,” a surprising encounter during the holidays in Saugatuck.

Everyone knows Saugatuck is an enchanting summertime destination, but it is also charming during the holidays. My husband, Don, and I go Christmas shopping there because we can find great gifts in a gorgeous setting. One year, we went on the same weekend that actors were putting on a production of A Christmas Carol in the historic Women’s Club building.

The winter setting was perfect: Snow fell in big flakes, and visitors enjoyed a ride in a lovely white carriage pulled by a horse clip-clopping down the street. Don and I were enjoying dinner at Wally’s, a wonderfully eccentric establishment favored by locals, when the door opened and, much to our surprise, in strode Bob Cratchit! I’m pretty sure it was actually a thespian in costume, but you never know in Saugatuck. He sat at the bar, and took off his top hat. “What’ll you have?” asked the bartender. Nobody, nobody batted an eye except Don and me. “Give me a Bud Light,” said Bob as he watched the NCAA basketball game on the TV.

A few moments later, we were laughing about it when—hand to God—Mrs. Cratchit and Tiny Tim walked in to see when Bob was coming home. “I’ll be there in a while,” Bob said. Off they went. Again, no one noticed.

Don and I share this story often because it reminds of us of one of our favorite places—pure Saugatuck. The striking town is home to galleries, great art and fun. It is also a place that knows life is full of surprises, so never take yourself too seriously. God bless us, every one!

Jeanne Van Wieren, who lives in Williamston, wrote about her “Pure Michigan Moment” for Michigan Travel Ideas.

 

Cross-Country Skiing in Pure Michigan

Photo courtesy of Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association

Michigan may not be known for mountainous terrain, but it does offer some of the best cross-country skiing in the country – great for both fun and exercise.  More than 3,000 miles of trails stretch across the state, Mackinac Island included.  Come winter, the entire east side of the island is reserved solely for cross country fun, with ski rental and instruction available.

For those unwilling to brave the icy Straits, there’s plenty of prime skiing available on the northern Michigan mainland – from the Sand Dunes Ski Trail in St. Ignace, to the Peek-A-Boo Hill Ski Trail in Cedarville.  For a more adventurous trek, the 35 mile Petoskey to Mackinaw Trail stretches 35 miles through eight cities.

There’s plenty of fun to be had downstate as well:

Bald Mountain Recreation Area in Lake Orion is known for its eight miles of groomed cross country skiing trails, and is also a great destination for snowmobiling, sledding and ice fishing.

Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary in Bellevue was the first sanctuary of the Michigan Audubon Society.  Well-known as a refuge for Greater Sandhill Cranes, cross country skiing is welcomed along its trails in-season.

Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids is a 143 acre facility, giving visitors the opportunity to explore a variety of nature areas along its cross country trails.  It’s also possible to warm up indoors with special exhibits and Blandford’s popular wildlife care program.

For more information on cross country skiing in the Mackinac Island region, or throughout the state, visit www.michigan.org.